Millennials desire autonomy: we plan our own trips, endeavor to make our own kombucha, and reassure ourselves that we are the innovators and the disrupters. When I hear an energy professional proclaim: “Technology is changing, Energy is changing.”, it just echoes the steady diet of word soup on which we’ve been raised.
The reality, however, is that the buzzwords both championed by, and thrust upon us, are less descriptive and more idealistic. Admittedly the perception that we shy away from long term engagements is somewhat valid: 91% of millennials envision working at a given job for fewer than three years. Nonetheless, we share many of the same desires as the preceding generations. The high cost of living works to obfuscate millennials’ desire to own a home: according to a survey conducted by Qualtrics, 88% of millennials who do not own a home desire to be homeowners. Further, the median age for first time homebuyers has remained largely unchanged over the last forty years. Only one third of millennials are at or above the median home-buying age, 30.6, and 22% are under 25.
Millennials, though accused by media outlets as fickle and insubordinate, have articulated our expectations of our futures in countless think-pieces, surveys, and behavioral reports. We out-source our driving via ride-sharing services, our shopping via Amazon, dinner via Plated, DoorDash, Seamless etc… We readily delegate tasks we perceive as burdensome; yet we might only be willing to do so because we perceive this out-sourcing as an expression of, or reflection of, our control.
Personally, I see our generation as one confronted by and tasked with navigating the (often self-wrought) tension between autonomy and dependency. Due to wage stagnation, today’s 30 year olds make about as much as did those in 1984. The high-cost of living in metropolises has engendered a generational dependence on parental support. In the states with the highest cost of living: New York, California, and Hawaii, close to 50% of millennials are living full-time with a relative. An estimated 1 in 3 millennials lives in a familial home.
What this amounts to, regarding energy, is a disconnect forged by dependency. The large contingent of millennials in rental spaces pays monthly fees, often all-inclusive, that obscure the cost of specific utilities, including energy. In all likelihood, for the one-third shacking up with family, there is no bill- let alone a stream-specific utilities bill.
The on-demand eco-system to which millennials are accustomed: highly mobile, data-driven, seamless, is what millennials expect for all products and services, including energy. The prior discussion of control is germane as recent energy industry reports emphasize millennial desire for a suite of tools through which they can maintain autonomy over their surroundings by way of controlling energy usage. We also wish to delegate the task of conserving energy to an automated process. Millennials view their choice of energy utility company, thermostat, and propensity to curtail their carbon footprint (or not) as reflections of their character.
Though I personally am a fastidious composter, re-user, and recycler, the same cannot be said of the rest of my cohort. Millennials as a group profess to be “green” and ascribe to the (well-documented) theory that climate change is both occurring and primarily engendered by human activity (more than our older counterparts, 66% vs. 58%). Unfortunately, our collective actions say otherwise. As a segment we recycle less (33% vs. 51%) and unplug our devices less frequently and bring our own bags less frequently. I would like to inject a caveat here; I imagine these figures track neatly along education and geographic lines. Millennials in San Francisco, either Portland (Maine or Oregon), and Austin would likely be aghast at those low figures.
According to data collected by Accenture, 82% of millennials would be satisfied if their in-home system automatically limited electricity usage at peak periods. Fifty-two percent, when asked about the next five years, expressed the desire to receive credit to their bill for participation in demand-response programs. Just over half of millennials, when asked about the same five-year period, expressed interest in a smart thermostat that allowed for mobile control. These insights relay to energy companies that the next generation of home buyers will continue to balance autonomy with out-sourcing, all an extension of perceived control. Further, millennials expressed willingness to change utilities companies if their demand for seamless, highly interactive, and mobile experiences were not met. All these millennial surveys, however, require a vital component: that this generation connects to, and therefore pays, their energy providers.
 Multiple Generations@Work, Future Workplace (2012).
 The Millennial Series. Accel+Qualtrics, (2017).
 The Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends. The Zillow Group, (2016).
 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. National Association of Realtors, (2015).
 Rosen, Kamran. “Millennials and Homebuying: Myths and Reality.” NerdWallet. NerdWallet, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.
 Duke, Brendan. “When I Was Your Age.” Center for American Progress, 03 Mar. 2016. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.
 Weller, Andy Kiersz and Chris. “Here’s How Many Millennials Are Living at Home in Every US State.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 06 Jan. 2017. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.
 New American Community Survey Statistics For Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Available For States and Local Areas, United States Census Bureau., (2016).
 Actionable Insights for the New Energy Consumer (Handbook). (2012).
Alexandra Koscove is a Strategist at Essense Partners. Prior to joining Essense, Alexandra pursued a History degree and Theater and Performance studies minor at Stanford University. Her interest in energy and clean tech was piqued early on, as she came of age while San Francisco was legislating clean air and zero waste policies.
Previously, she worked to drive growth for a financial services enterprise software company; preceding this she executed marketing campaigns for an ed-tech start-up. Outside of work, she pursues her passion for classical ballet.